Best Radar Detector of 2021
$149.95 at Amazon
$52.95 at Amazon
|Pros||Bluetooth connectivity, community shared information, adjustable sensitivity||Simple, inexpensive, impressive range for the price||Somewhat adjustable sensitivity, simple, IVT filtering|
|Cons||No location lockouts, sensitivity adjustments cannot be performed individually, lots of false alerts||No GPS, limited filtering, little customization, lots of false alerts||No location lockouts, lots of false alerts, no GPS or Bluetooth|
|Bottom Line||A radar detector that has Bluetooth connectivity to an app on your smartphone but leaves out a few favorite features in exchange for a friendly price||An inexpensive radar detector with impressive range but limited filtering and lots of false alerts||A simple radar detector with low-level customization but also a low price point|
|Rating Categories||Cobra RAD 480i||Uniden DFR1||Cobra RAD 380|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Cobra RAD 480i||Uniden DFR1||Cobra RAD 380|
|Radars Detected||X, K, Ka, Laser||X, K, Ka, Laser||X, K, Ka, Laser|
|Display||Not stated||Not stated||Not stated|
|Available Modes||Highway, City||Highway, City||Highway, City|
|Power Chord Type||12v||12v||12v|
Best Overall Radar Detector
The Uniden R7 is an advanced radar detector at a very fair mid-high price point. This model balances being highly customizable with clear enough operations to allow for a quick learning curve and simple settings adjustments. This detector is accurate with the best range in the business. We were able to detect a cop over 5 miles away through winding mountainous roads. Lest you worry this model will be too accurate and will alert you to non-threatening radars, the built-in GPS technology offers several options to keep false alarms down. The user can block alarms that would be caused by radars found on things like automatic doors and train tracks. The manual lockout feature will allow the user to permanently mute any non-threatening, stationary triggers. Additionally, uploaded information like red-light cameras can be stored on the device, with firmware updates bringing confirmation of those locations. Thus the R7 is highly customizable, accurate, and long-range, yet still very easy to use. It includes a large multicolored OLED screen which is automatically brightened or dimmed based on a built-in ambient light sensor. Clear, unique, and crisp audible alerts round out this excellent package.
While the manual GPS lockout feature is an absolute star, it does take a moment to get used to. To lockout a location, you have to double-click the mute button. The first few times we tried using this feature, we just ended up muting the device rather than locking out the location. That being said, once you figure out the cadence of the double click, it is a non-issue. Compared to some of Uniden's other detectors, the R7 is quite large. This did not bother us as it is very easy to remove from the window mount when not in use, and if placed low on the dash, it does not impede the driver's vision. The biggest complaint we have with the R7 is that the BSM (blind-spot monitoring) filtering leaves much to be desired. Generally speaking, this triggers a K-band alert, so turning the K-sensitivity down a notch helps mitigate the problem. Overall this is a high-end radar at a mid-high price and is an excellent option for anyone looking to keep those pesky speeding tickets off their driving record.
Read review: Uniden R7
- X-band: operating between 8.0 and 12.0 GHz, the X-band is an older band used mostly by automatic doors. If you receive this alert, it is most likely not law enforcement. If your radar allows you to, you may want to turn this band off completely.
- K-band: operating between 24.05 and 24.25 GHz, the K-band is a somewhat popular frequency used by police radar guns today. If you receive this alert, take a look around, though it very well may be a false alarm. If you can turn the K-band sensitivity down, we suggest doing so.
- Ka-band: operating between 33.4 and 36.0 GHz, the Ka-band is the most popular frequency used by police today. If you receive this alert, SLOW DOWN! We recommend leaving this alert on at all times, as it is widely used.
- MultaRadar(MRCD/MRCT): a frequency modulated radar or a radar that oscillates between multiple frequencies. Many red light cameras are MultaRadar. If you receive this alert, it is most likely law enforcement.
- Laser: the laser is often used by higher law enforcement. If you receive this kind of alert, take it seriously.
Long Range at a Lower Cost
Uniden, as a company, is known for making long-range radar detectors and the R3 is no exception. This highly customizable device does a stellar job of picking up all the desired frequencies with plenty of time to allow the driver to slow down. Not only does it excel in the range department, but its accuracy is also an attribute to write home about — as long as you understand the optimal settings for your primary driving routes. Uniden gives its users fine-tune control over band sensitivity to help with false alerts. From the setup to updates to setting adjustments, the R3 is all around very user-friendly, especially once you become familiar with the controls. The GPS location lockouts are recorded by a simple double-tap of the mute button, located just below the screen, and remain recorded until you delete them. The audible alerts are easy to hear, and the screen is easy to read.
While the GPS location lockouts are easy to perform and plentiful, the R3 does not have as much storage as some of its competitors, even within the Uniden brand. This doesn't affect its daily performance but may inhibit the use of future memory-heavy firmware updates. Unfortunately, it also does not pick up modulating frequencies as well as some of the more expensive models and therefore lacks in its MultaRadar detection. Another bone we have to pick with the otherwise stellar R3 is the BSM filtering. When driving next to modern cars equipped with blind-spot monitoring, the K-band alert is often triggered. Fine-tuning the K-band sensitivity helps with this a little but does not prevent all BSM-related false alerts. Lastly, the R3 does not have directional arrows. This is not a make-or-break feature, but we truly appreciate knowing where the threat is coming from. All this aside, with this device you can feel confident that you're getting the most important features of an advanced radar detector with stellar range and comparable accuracy for a fraction of the cost.
Read review: Uniden R3
Best Bang for Your Buck
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for when it comes to radar detectors, but the Uniden DFR7 is an affordable device that works remarkably well. It is far from lacking in necessary features, like manual lockouts and low-speed muting. The GPS works well, and location lockouts are easy with a double-tap of the mute button. Its accuracy is great in the sense that it will not miss a true threat; however, it can be a little talkative when there are no real threats present. The low-speed muting and manual lockouts help a bit with false alerts, but it is far from perfect. That said, the band settings are customizable like the other Uniden products, so if you take the time to get to know your device and learn what frequencies are used in your area, you can significantly cut down on false alerts. The DFR7 has a surprisingly great range for the price and picks up frequency bands from miles away on straight roads. The screen is clear, and the voice alerts are too. The volume can be turned up quite loud, made very quiet, or turned off completely if you prefer to operate visually.
While the DFR7 has a stellar range for the price, it does struggle around corners and is not as good as the more expensive Uniden models. That being said, the range holds its own when compared to other more costly brands. The false alerts can be a little jarring if you do not understand how to interpret them, so you'll have to be comfortable getting to know your device and setting it up properly for the areas you drive most. The DFR7 also struggles with BSM false alerts and often goes off in the presence of more modern cars that offer this feature. Turning down the K-band sensitivity can help with this. If you're looking to save some bucks and truly don't mind a few false alerts, then the money saved is well worth it. This is a great option for someone who mostly drives local and doesn't mind putting in a little time and research with their device to ensure it is set up properly for its surroundings.
Read review: Uniden DFR7
Escort MAX 360c
The Escort MAX 360c is a very advanced radar detector with a price tag to match. This feature-rich device has novice and expert modes that allow for different degrees of customization. In the Novice mode, band sensitivities are set, and alerts simply tell you to slow down if there is a potential threat nearby. The Expert mode allows you to customize all your settings, from the kind of alerts you'd like to receive to their colors and sounds. Not only does the MAX 360c alert you of law enforcement, but it will also alert you of traffic jams, accidents, and other live information you, as a driver, may be interested in hearing. Escort offers both manual and automatic lockouts as well. Auto lockouts are a feature that Escort has been the sole provider of, although there are rumors of Uniden offering this soon for some of their later models. Another unique feature that the MAX 360c offers is its built-in WiFi. Generally speaking, firmware updates must be performed via a Bluetooth connection to your phone or on a computer, but the 360c automatically updates its firmware without you needing to think about it.
While automatic location lockouts can be helpful, they also pose some potential issues. Let's say that your MAX 360c has automatically recognized that your local grocery store's doors set off the K-band alert every time you drive by them. It, therefore, locks out that location without you knowing, but then one day, on your way to work, there happens to be a cop clocking drivers with a K-band radar nearby. Unfortunately, that spot is now auto-locked out, and you will not be notified. On the flip side, if you have manually locked this spot out, you know to keep your eyes peeled, as you have consciously decided to stop receiving alerts in this area. That said, this feature, like all the features on the MAX 360c, can be turned off. The traffic notifications are nice, but if you use Waze or Google Maps, you are most likely receiving those notifications already. Again this feature can be turned off, but this begs the question, why spend the extra money on a bunch of features you won't be using. This radar is for the novice who doesn't have the time or desire to learn how their device works or the tech head who wants all the options that come with such a feature-rich device and doesn't mind paying for it.
Read review: Escort Max 360c
The Escort MAX 360 and MAX 360c both offer the same features, filtering, and performance capabilities. The main difference is that the 360c has built-in WiFi for automatic updates, whereas the 360 uses Bluetooth for cloud integration. There are some other subtle differences like the body and the buttons, but as for the price difference, you are paying for the built-in WiFi and automatic updates.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by Hayley Thomas. Hayley is based out of Denver, Colorado but lives on the road in her custom-built Sprinter van. Her life lands her in interesting places all around North America, but she, her partner, and their two dogs spend a good amount of time driving between said destinations. From the long winding mountainous roads of Colorado to those straight highways through the middle of Kansas, the temptation to put the pedal to the metal is high. Her time on the road offers a unique testing experience as these radar detectors have seen more states than your average American! Hayley's attention to detail and life on the road allows for a unique testing experience providing ample drivetime for comparisons and identifying key features along the way.
We strived to test our radar detectors objectively, ensuring that every person who might benefit from one is kept in mind. To kick off the category, we researched the best contenders on the market to narrow down our suite to the top models available today for some hands-on testing. From there, we took the time to understand how each detector works before putting them to the test. Once we had a thorough understanding of the capabilities and controls of each, we installed the devices and went looking for speed traps, photo-enforced red light cameras, and other radar-wielding law enforcement. Through research, unbiased observations, and personal experience, we present an objective, in-depth review. We hope our recommendations help you in your search for the right radar detector for your needs and budget.
Related: How We Tested Radar Detectors
Analysis and Test Results
Life is fast-paced these days, and we know it can be difficult to avoid putting the pedal to the metal when you're on the road. However, we often find ourselves regretting our heavy feet when the dreaded blue and red flashing lights hit our rearview mirror. Are you curious about how to avoid your next speeding ticket but don't know where to start? The market is flooded with radar detectors, and the price range is astounding. It can be hard to know what is worth the money and what isn't, which is why we are here to help. Knowing your level of technological skill, driving style, and location is vital to a successful pairing.
Related: Buying Advice for Radar Detectors
The devices we tested range from not-too-bad to serious investment status, so it can be difficult to find the perfect combination of price and performance. Comparing our scores to the price is a great place to start.
For excellent performance without breaking the bank, check out the Uniden DFR7 - a surprisingly long-range and accurate device for the price. One tier higher, but still far from the most expensive option, is the Uniden R3. It performed impressively across all our testing metrics.
What is a device without cool features, right? While accuracy and range are what we need out of a radar detector, its available features are what set it apart from the rest. During our feature testing, we paid special attention to four things: frequencies detected, sensitivity adjustments/modes, technology integration, and bonus features. Law enforcement uses a few different types of radar devices when scouting for speeders. There are red-light cameras, handheld radar guns, laser guns, and stationary speed traps. While a lot of these radars emit different frequencies, some pose a higher threat than others. An advanced radar detector will offer detection of X band, K-band, Ka-band, laser, and MultaRadar frequencies. Many of the devices in our test suite offer detection of all the aforementioned frequencies, but some of the less expensive options lack MultaRadar detection. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but you will most likely need to upgrade to a device that does in the future because MultaRadar devices are becoming increasingly more popular.
We love options as much as the next person, but too many alerts can muddy the waters a bit. Keeping all of the five band detections mentioned above at their highest sensitivity will have your radar detector talking like gossip time around the water cooler. Operating at full sensitivity for each band will result in false alerts, and if we learned anything from "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," we know that false alerts can cause desensitization when real threats are present. This is where the sensitivity adjustments and modes give you a leg up in the game. The ability to change the sensitivity of a particular frequency is huge. The X-band, for example, is so seldomly used that most people turn this detection off completely.
The Uniden R7 allows its users to adjust each band's sensitivity between 30% and 100%. You may also turn the detection of any frequency off completely. Advanced radar detectors also come with various modes that have preset sensitivities based on where you are driving or what level of user you are. Highway mode, for example, is more sensitive than City mode, as there are more false alert triggers present in cities. The Escort MAX 360c offers a Novice mode that omits all the extra information and simply tells the driver to slow down if there is a threat close by. This is great for those who struggle with technology or simply do not want to take the time to learn what every alert means.
Moving on to technology integration features. Nowadays, technology talks. Your Apple watch can beep your lost phone, your calendars sync, and you can drop photos and links to a friend at the push of a button. In the world of radars, technology refers to GPS, WiFi, and Bluetooth integration. Without GPS in the device or Bluetooth connecting the detector to your smartphone GPS, there is no way to manually lockout locations, gather speed limits, or offer information that requires your location to divulge. If you drive the same route often, manual lockouts are important as you wouldn't want to continue hearing the beep of the automatic doors at the grocery store you pass on your way to work every morning. The Escort MAX 360c takes the location lockouts up a notch by offering auto lockout capabilities and real-time communication between drivers. Automatic location lockout is a feature that no other detector offers at this moment; however, Uniden will be offering this on the R7 in the future.
As far as bonus features go, the Uniden R7, Escort MAX 360c, and Escort MAX 360 all offer a plethora. The R7 has different sounds and colors for each alert, all customizable. This may seem small, but you don't want to be distracted by your radar detector while trying to avoid getting a speeding ticket, so you certainly do not want to be questioning what the device is telling you. Both Escort models also offer speeding alerts. You can pop into the app on your smartphone and adjust the settings to alert you when you are going a specific speed over the limit.
Accuracy is an obvious metric to test. A radar detector that stays silent in the presence of radar gun-wielding law enforcement is money wasted. The term accuracy in this context does not just refer to the device going off when it is supposed to, but it also extends to its ability to decipher between what is a real threat and what isn't. Alerts caused by non-threatening radar are called false alerts. Many things could set off a false alert. In-Vehicle Technology on modern cars, automatic doors at the grocery store, or train tracks are all culprits. Where some detectors passed with flying colors, others failed.
The Escort MAX 360c, MAX 360c, and Uniden R7 take the cake for the most accurate out of the box. They pick up X, K, Ka, laser, and MultaRadar relatively easily. Every device false alerts to some degree, so it is important to adjust the settings to your desired sensitivity. That said, if you fully understand what every alert means and are not bothered by the beeps and boops, you may want to leave sensitivity on everything up to have full visibility into what is going on around you. The MAX 360 and 360c are also connected to the Escort community via the cloud. This allows for users to confirm that alerts were true threats, mark spots that the device did not initially see, and deny threats so that drivers can learn from each other's driving experiences.
The Uniden R7, generally speaking, is extremely accurate. It picks up the appropriate signals, displays the correct direction of the threat, and falls quiet when the threat is no longer present. The only false alarm it seems to struggle with is blind-spot monitoring (BSM) on neighboring cars. The presence of this type of radar often triggers a false K-band alert. Because the R7 is so highly adjustable as far as sensitivity settings go, it is not too difficult to turn down your K-band sensitivity to help filter out some of these BSM alerts.
Radar devices emit radio waves that bounce off the vehicle in question and get sent back to the device to read its speed. The radar guns used by law enforcement emit massive waves, so it is relatively easy for a detector to identify these waves before you can spot the source. This is a very important attribute because you obviously need to be warned of the law enforcement officer before they can see you.
While testing for this metric, we compared select detectors side-by-side to see which ones went off first. Uniden is known for its long-range radars, and they didn't disappoint. The R7 and R3 proved to have the longest range, time and time again. Whether they were on a long straight highway, in a busy city, or driving through winding mountain roads, these two consistently picked up radar frequencies before their competitors. The Escort models came in second. The MAX 360 and 360c lost out to the Uniden R7 and R3 every time, but they still offer ample time to slow down.
Ease of Use
Radar detectors are a great tool for most drivers. Even the most careful of us can be caught off guard going a few miles over the speed limit. That being said, if you do not understand how they work, some of them can be a little tricky. In this category, we paid attention to the initial setup, ongoing changes to device settings, and overall clarity, both visual and audible.
The initial setup for these devices can include getting comfortable with the controls, downloading smartphone apps, and physically installing the device in your vehicle. Downloading and pairing the Escort devices is a breeze. The app is also very informative, so making changes to the settings is just as easy. We did, however, have trouble hearing the alerts at times as the sounds were lost when the cab was particularly noisy.
Once you get used to the controls on the Uniden R7 and R3, they are both very easy to navigate. Both detectors are also very audibly clear and easy to understand. The R7 has a very large multicolored OLED screen that makes it very visibly clear as well.
The right radar detector may cost hundreds of dollars but also has the potential to save you hundreds down the line. There is a wide range of features to choose from, and generally speaking, you get what you pay for. That being said, not everyone needs the most expensive one to get the job done. Driving can be enjoyable when the risk of receiving a speeding ticket is minimized, even a little bit. Finding the right fit for your needs and budget can be difficult, which is why we have taken the time to give you an expertly conducted comprehensive review. Good luck out there, and drive safe!
— Hayley Thomas
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